How to Use Metrics to Improve Your Site – Part 1

In a previous post we discussed the 8 Most Important Conversion Metrics You Should be Tracking, which can help you determine how successful your website is and identify areas that you can improve upon.

However, once you’re familiar with what to track, the question then becomes, “How do we use these metrics to make improvements on our site?” The following tips will answer just that:

  1. Traffic Sources

    After you’ve identified where your traffic is coming from, it is important to determine 2 things:

    1. How do we increase traffic from the sources that we currently have?
    2. How do we get more sources sending traffic to our site?

    Direct traffic comes in three forms. The first is random type-in traffic, where people “take a chance” and type in a URL hoping that it will deliver their desired results. The increased popularity of search engines has made random type-in traffic almost non-existent and there is no valid way to increase it effectively.

    Type-in traffic by itself can be enhanced through offline advertising–television, radio, print, and billboards offer ways to increase direct traffic, but the ROI is usually minimal compared to other forms of Internet marketing. For the sake of cost-effectiveness, direct traffic is a bonus and should not require effort to increase.

    Search traffic, on the other hand, can have a high yield for limited budgets. There are two ways to increase search traffic: search engine optimization for organic rankings and pay-per-click search engine marketing for sponsored rankings.

    Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the art and science of improving a website’s onsite attributes to be more attractive to search engines for particular keywords. It is supplemented by link-building, which is having links to your site from other websites, preferably with contextual anchor-text associated with the link. If the right keywords are selected and a strong firm is optimizing the site properly, SEO can often yield the most “bang for your buck.”

    Pay Per Click Search Engine Marketing (PPC SEM) is an alternative that works more quickly than SEO but has less of a long-term benefit. Because you are paying per click on your sponsored link, it can often be more expensive than SEO. The advantage is control. By controlling your budget and choosing the right keywords, you have the ability to rank for as many keywords as you can afford.

    Referral traffic is often the most difficult to increase, but it can be the fastest way to get bursts of traffic. Social media sites like Digg, Reddit, and StumbleUpon offer two ways to increase referral traffic. Quality content that becomes popular on these sites can generate bursts in the tens or even hundreds of thousands of unique visitors. From there, other site owners can see the content and link to it as well, driving more traffic from relevant sites in your niche.

    Beyond that, there are link exchanges, exposure on other sites because the content is worthy, and widgets that can drive referral traffic. The key to converting this traffic is quality of content. If the content is interesting or useful, websites will link to it if they find it. Using social media is the most convenient way, but the content itself, regardless of quality. may not be enough for social media exposure. For most sites, a quality submitter is required to draw the initial burst of attention. Once people see it with votes, the quality can help propel it to the top and help it to achieve viral status by hitting the front pages.

  2. New/Unique Visitor Conversion

    Getting people to your site for the first time is important, but if you can’t keep them there, they won’t convert. Design and functionality are keys to making sure that you get the most out of your visitors. By design, we do not necessarily mean making the most beautiful site. It should be attractive enough to not drive them away, but a site that is flash-heavy or overly stylish can turn people off as much as one that is amateurish and boring. Think “clean and effective” when designing or redesigning websites. People do not get “wowed” anymore by intricate and complicated web design. They want what they want, and they better be able to find it quickly without much noise.

    Functionality is the second factor in retaining first-time visitors. Websites need to keep conversion in mind and shorten the path to conversion whenever possible. A goal-oriented web design is more impressive than a website that forces people to search around or jump through hoops to convert. If a site is easy to navigate, first time visitors are not only more inclined to become return visitors, but they are also more likely to convert into leads or sales.

  3. Return Visitor Conversion

    To get people to return, they have to have an incentive. For whatever reason, a first time visitor who doesn’t convert needs to have a reason and a method to return later.

    There are many reasons that people will return to a website. Updates to a website through blog posts, updated video content, or future specials can encourage returns. Resources, however, are the best way to keep people coming back. For example, an automotive website that has a purchase vs. lease payment calculator can compel people to bookmark the site for future use. As with just about every page of your website, resource pages should have some method to convert that visitor, whether it’s a simple contact form or a link to a conversion page.

    Having reasons for people to return is important, but just as important is having methods for people to get the updates. Offering email updates can work if handled properly. Allowing visitors to subscribe to an RSS feed of the site’s blog is also effective. Bookmarking tools have worked in the past, but are slowly becoming less valuable because of browser-based tools for sites like Delicious. Still, it doesn’t hurt to have something on the pages to encourage bookmarks.

  4. Interactions Per Visit

    If people are not interacting with your site, they are likely not seeing the value in it. The longer they spend on the site, the more likely they are to convert. To get them to spend more time and see more pages, all it takes is giving them the ways and the reasons.

    Watch your metrics. If a page is linked to from the homepage but it is not receiving much traffic compared to other links, consider moving the link or changing the link format. People normally “travel” a website in an “F” shaped pattern. They scan the top horizontal bar, then the mid-horizontal bar, then they return to the top left and scan down. Those who are aware of this often put their lead conversion tools on the left side or across the top. Depending on your website and goals, this may be the right strategy, but it probably isn’t.

    For most websites, the goal is to get them to trust the site, then convert. Use the “F” to build that trust. Prove your authority and professionalism in the “F”, then give them a reason to scan the page for more. Convert on the right sidebar, in the body itself, and/or along the bottom.

There is no set formula to make a website more engaging and converting. If you can, play around. Try it for a month, then move 1 button or link that is not converting as well. Do not do massive changes when doing this so you can have accurate data based upon individual changes. With that data, you can shift the site into its peak converting state over time.

Next week, we will explore the other 4 metrics. For now, apply what you’ve learned here and make a plan about what you can do to make your site the best it can be.

  1. What a great post. JD has a very handsome vocabulary.

  2. Do I understand your words about SEO right, if I write more about usability improvement here and on other blogs about improving web usability in the context of services that I offer (usability consulting) then my chances of getting listed higher goes up?

  3. Looking forward to the next post. My biggest issue with website analytic in general is that it’s hard to extract and prioritize useful action items from the amount of data you collect. It’s a steep learning curve.

  4. What you’ve mentioned in this port make sense. These days, optimisation of website is as important as the creation of a website. Without optimizing the website to its desired position, it would be useless to maintain the site in the long run.

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